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"Shared Mobility: Expanding Transportation Choice in Rural Areas"


Our everyday lives are full of choices. We live in a world where we can choose between hundreds of brands for a pair of pants, surf a website to compare countless restaurants in our area, and decide where we will live, work, and play based on what we read on the Internet. The same is true for transportation. Someone living in New York City has access to all kinds of private and public transportation: they can walk, bike, ride the subway, take a bus, call an Uber, or drive their own cars, to name a few. Transportation in cities have varying levels of reliability, price, and convenience, but there is always a choice. The new question to consider is how do we maintain choice as we leave the urban bubble?

About 69% of Americans live in exurban areas and 45% of Americans don’t have access to any form of public transportation. Lack of transportation in rural areas can lead to higher unemployment, poverty rates and stunted economic growth. So how do we bring affordable and reliable transportation to these communities?. One way to do this is by promoting different kinds of shared mobility. Shared mobility began in 1942, when the US government required carpooling to preserve rubber during World War II. We see it today in popular apps like Uber and Lyft that connect drivers to riders in metropolitan areas. But to serve the broader population, shared mobility must be accessible in rural areas.

Shared mobility has the potential to be an affordable and reliable solution to the rural transportation problem and startups, as well as the public sector, are exploring new technologies and opportunities. Two different public transportation systems in different parts of the country show how ridesharing can increase mobility for Americans living in rural areas. JAUNT is a regional public transportation system that serves seven counties in Virginia. With a variety of busses, vans, and smaller vehicles, they provide transportation for Virginians based on a phone and email reservation system. Mason Transit Authority (MTA) near Seattle runs a program called Vanpool. A vanpool is a group of 5 to 12 people who need to commute to the same place. MTA provides the driver and vehicle, and all you have to do is sign up.

Private companies are also attempting to close the transportation gap for carpooling. GoCarma is an app that encourages commuters to carpool in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Carpooling in Texas is not only good for the environment, but it can save money too: carpooling gives you a 50% discount on tolls. Other companies are focusing on intercity shared mobility. RideSVP is a site where individuals may register their road trips or sign up for extra seats in another’s car. Apart from helping people move from city to city in an affordable way, RideSVP is focusing on reducing carbon emissions through shared mobility.

This video shows how GoCarma verifies users in HOV lanes!

Choice in transportation is important whether you live in a city or a rural area. Increasing shared mobility in rural areas will reduce traffic, carbon, costs, and improve equity and our communities. Ridesharing and encouraging more shared mobility is just one step towards reducing the average person’s carbon emissions to zero. So next time you’re deciding how to get somewhere, consider riding with a friend!